Many Old Order Mennonites in our region do not have provincial health insurance and their community helps cover the costs of hospitalization and health care. But modern ways are making inroads and young Mennonites are sometimes seen driving buggies and talking on cell phones even though they do not have land line phones in their homes. Others have accepted government health insurance and that is how I met Aaron and his family.
Aaron fell from a hay wagon as a young boy and injured his hip. As he grew, the hip became externally rotated to the point where the surgeon told me the right foot went north and south and the left foot ran east and west. Aaron had corrective surgery when he was about 18 years old and I drove to the family farm to see how he was progressing with his mobility. At the time of my first visit he was not able to weight bear on the affected leg and had to hop with crutches.
The farm lane was long and Aaron stood with a group of men outside a shed. He was using a pair of vintage crutches the likes I had only seen in the Pyramid of Crutches at the Saint Anne de Beaupre shrine near Quebec City. They were solid wood, of fixed size with no adjustability in length or handle position, and looked to be at least 75 years old. I would guess that the average height of an Old Order Mennonite man of middle age or older is 5’8” tall. But the younger men are growing taller like many in their generation. The crutches were far too short for Aaron but in his community you make do with what you have. Many people had used those crutches over the years.
I went into the house to do my assessment and charting. A large table was in the centre of a dining-living room. The walls were fully lined with chesterfields and wooden chairs and the room could have seated dozens of people. A couple of young children peered around the corner at me, a foreigner in their world.
I found a pair of tall adjustable wooden crutches in the donation cupboard. They were in new condition and had clean foam covers on the top. I took them to Aaron on my next visit and adjusted them correctly for his height. He was delighted with the gift and could move about with greater speed and agility. The family admired the crutches and I am certain they will be passed around the community and used for the next 75 years.
Aaron’s hip eventually healed and he was able to walk without crutches. His left leg still turned out a little and was slightly shorter than the right leg. He could move without pain and resumed his normal activities on the farm. He was destined to develop early arthritis in the joint requiring a joint replacement in the future, but corrective surgery was a success in the short term. Aaron’s future as a productive adult was assured and he would surely have sons who could help him if he developed mobility problems as he aged. Such is the strength of this community.